When you have been out walking or running in Hong Kong's rural areas and country parks, you will probably have found yourself on a path made out of boulders laid closely together without any cement or concrete. These are what remain of a network of ancient roads and paths and their associated bridges linking the major townships and villages with each other and inter-linking ferry routes.
They are difficult to date but are probably centuries old and have survived because they were so sensibly and practically constructed. The Hong Kong Archaeological Society Survey of 1982 to 1985 identified nine boulder trackways in particular:
Three of these are to be found, at least in part, within the boundaries of Sai Kung District:
- Ho Chung to Customs Pass Trackway (2Km)
- Pak Kong to Mui Tsz Lam Trackway (1.5Km)
- Shui Ngau Shan Trackway (1Km)
You can now explore these boulder trackways thanks to the efforts of Guy Shirra, who is documenting them in a series of guides. His guides are available here:
- The old main road from Tai Wai, Shatin to Sai Kung
- The old main road from Siu Lek Yuen, Shatin to Ho Chung, Sai Kung
The network of traditional paved roads provides important evidence as to how and by what routes Hong Kong's early villages and market towns were interconnected before the development of the modern road and rail system.
They offer a unique insight into a traditional world, whose patterns of communication, following the easiest natural routes, were quite different to what they are today.
The scale of this system of paved trackways, the skill with which the tracks were constructed and the effort needed in the quarrying and transporting of material and in their maintenance, provide eloquent testimony to the socio-economic and administrative institutions of the times.
No firm evidence to date these tracks has been located, but some may conceivably be of very considerable antiquity.
Their significance is greatly enhanced because they are eminently visible and readily appreciated monuments to the Territory's past in a landscape relatively impoverished of similar historical features.
Guy Shirra, Sai Kung
re: Heritage Trails
Guy, that's an interesting subject - thanks for writing in.
It looks like there's some text missing after "The Hong Kong Archaeological Society Survey of 1982 to 1985 identified nine boulder trackways in particular:". Do you have any info about the full list of nine tracks please?
Also it looks like a couple of links got lost when you pasted above. Here they are:
His guides are available here:
The old main road from Tai Wai, Shatin to Sai Kung
The old main road from Siu Lek Yuen, Shatin to Ho Chung, Sai Kung
Please let us know as more guides get added.
Boulder trackway south of Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve
I stumbled across this path - about 500 metres of it, as I recall - on our walk last Saturday. A pretty remote spot and a fairly overgrown path, especially in the summer.
It's north-west of Fotan between Wo Sheung Tun and Ngau Wu Tok. Easaiest to access from the southern tip of the nature reserve. Email if you require more info.
Heritage Trails - HKAS Survey
This is the full list:
AMO Records of Boulder Trackways in Hong Kong
1. Hok Tau Reservoir - Cheung Uk Boulder Trackway (鶴藪水塘至張屋古石徑)
2. Lau Shui Heung - Kat Tsai Shan Au Trackway (流水響至桔仔山坳古徑)
3. Luk Keng - Tsai Muk Kiu Boulder Trackway (鹿頸至七木橋古石徑)
4. Pak Kong - Mui Tsz Lam Trackway (北港至梅子林古徑)
5. Ngong Ping - Shek Pik Boulder Trackway (昂坪至石壁古徑)
6. Shui Ngau Shan Trackway (水牛山古徑)
7. Sun Leung Tam Trackway (新浪潭古徑)
8. Tai Lam Chung–Pat Heung Trackway (大欖涌至八鄉古徑)
9. Ho Chung Trackway (蠔涌古徑)
10. Ho Pui Trackway (河背古徑)
11. Hung Shing Ye Trackway (洪聖爺古徑)
12. Lung A Pai - Siu Om Shan Trackway (龍丫排至小菴山古徑)
13. Wun Yiu Trackway (碗窰古徑)
14. Yi O - Fan Lau Boulder Trackway (二澳至分流古石徑)
I do apologise for not responding earlier; I am new to the blog/post game!
The path you refer to is not marked as a "Chinese Road" on Sheet 12 of the 1904 WD survey map but it on a minor route from Fo Tan to Lead Mine Pass which is on the road fro Kowloon peninsula to Tai Po and Lowu. Wo Sheung Tun is also on another route fro Tai Wai to Tai Po.
There is perhaps no fixed rule but the roads tend to be at least 4 feet wide and the village paths up to 3 feet wide.
I would welcome further information.
re: Heritage Trails
Guy, thanks for the extra information.
Is there any map available showing the 14 routes listed above? Many of the names aren't familiar to me, but I think I'd recognise them if I saw them on a map. (If not we have a feature on this website that can let you build such a map if you are interested.)
I'm not sure how often Ulaca reads this site - it might be worth sending him an email to follow up on his note above.
Guy, I've read your two ancient trails to Sai Kung with great interest. I walked much of the second one from Kowloon Peak in August and will pop a write-up on the walk on my blog when I have a bit more time. As for the path I mention above between Wo Sheung Tun and Ngau Wu Tok, it would qualify for a pathway width-wise, as far as I remember. Incidentally, there's one typo on your Trail No. 2 - it should be Tai No Sheung Yeung ("Ocean")rather than TNS Cheung.
Guy & Boulder Trackways in Time Out HK
This week's copy of Time Out magazine has a profile of Guy, where he talks about the old Boulder Trackways:
Guy has kindly offered to take Gwulo's readers on a guided walk along one of the old trackways on Saturday, 29th November 2014, Details to follow.
Ancient Trails in HK under Threat
Volunteers clear ancient Ho Chung trail
Update from Guy: https://saikungbuzz.com/2017/02/13/volunteers-clear-ancient-ho-chung-tr…